Ultraviolet radiation (or UV rays, for short) is emitted from the sun. No surprises there.
However, there’s a lot more to understand about UV in order to best protect your skin from damage while at work.
UV – easy as A B C
UV is actually made up of three different types of UV, each of which affect us in different ways. Firstly there is UVA, which causes premature ageing and contributes to skin cancer risk. UVB is the major cause of sunburn and skin cancer, while UVC doesn’t reach us here on earth (though it can be produced through processes such as arc welding). To provide the best protection possible, all primary sunscreens sold in Australia are broad spectrum – meaning they screen both UVA and UVB.
Heat vs UV
In summer, the sun travels directly overhead, meaning sun light has a shorter path through the atmosphere before reaching us on earth. As a result, less UV radiation is filtered by the atmosphere. This means UV is stronger at a time when it also happens to be hot. However, it’s not the heat that’s doing the damage, it’s the UV which can’t be seen or felt. Heat and UV are two very separate things, so don’t rely on temperature to tell you when it’s time to cover up – use the UV Index.
Even in winter when the weather is cooler, UV can still be high enough to damage your skin, so it’s important to cover up at work all year round.
UV can reflect off surfaces
UV also has a few tricks up its sleeve. It can reflect off surfaces (particularly smooth shiny surfaces), but also water, snow and lots of other things! It can also penetrate water and cloud. We also get the UV that’s refracted from blue sky too. So even if you’re in the shade, make sure you cover up.
Location, location, location
The strength of UV varies depending on your location. The nearer you get to the equator the stronger the UV. So it’s important to use the UV Index for your location – the Perth UV Index will not be all that helpful in Broome.
UV index – what’s it all about?
The UV index is a handy tool that tells you how strong the UV will be in your location. Outdoor workers should protect their skin whenever working outdoors due to their ongoing exposure, though the UV index will tell you just how much power the sun is packing on a particular day. You can find it here at UV Daily, wherever you get your weather forecast or on the handy SunSmart app.
So that’s the ins and outs of UV. With a little preparation, sun protection can become a seamless part of your daily routine and you can keep UV overexposure at bay!